There may be only three games left on Arkansas' regular season slate, but that's still enough to define the season according to Razorback head football coach Bret Bielema.
Bielema brought that up on Wednesday's SEC Football Teleconference when talking about the final three games – at home with LSU this Saturday at 7 p.m., another home game with Ole Miss the following weekend and then a road game at Missouri on Friday, Nov. 28.
“Obviously we took advantage of our bye week, got some guys healthy, got some good developmental work and now really the big thing we have in front of us is a three-week season here with two quality teams from the Western Division and one from the East,” Bielema said.
“We really have a chance to define our season,” Bielema added. “We've got a chance to play in front of our home crowd this weekend, an LSU football team that traditionally has been at the end of the year, but a change in the schedule has put them where they are. Because of that, I think it means a lot to our program and to our players.”
The Arkansas-LSU series that has been decided by a touchdown or less in seven of the last nine games between the two schools – including last season's 28-24 by the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
“We have a lot of Louisiana players, to our fan base it means a lot, it's a trophy game as we are playing for the Golden Boot and any time you are able to do that, it means a lot and something to our players,” Bielema said. “It is a tremendous opportunity here Saturday night and I am excited for our guys.”
The Razorbacks (4-5, 0-5) are scheduled to host the Tigers (7-3, 3-3) with temperatures in the 30s and possible snow on Saturday night.
“Hopefully we are going to have a very live crowd,” Bielema said. “I want them ready to get after it and help as much as they can from the stands.”
Bielema doesn't seem worried about the threat of inclement weather.
“I think the great thing that comes from our system is that our defense really isn't affected all that much by the weather, it's affected by what our opponents try to do,” Bielema said. “Offensively, one of the reasons we go with this type of offense is that you can play in all kinds of weather. You can play it dry with 100-plus degrees or you can play wet with minus-freezing temperatures.
“So we'll adjust as the game goes on according to the weather if that is a factor, but the good news is that our guys have played in it in the past and they will get a chance to rep it again this week,” Bielema added. “We have played with wet balls during the season and we will mix that in again this week with the cooler temperatures and just be able to handle every opportunity.”
Bielema remembers one game in his playing career that had a great memory involving the snow – a 1991 game between Iowa and visiting Minnesota when game time temperature was 28 degrees.
Iowa won 23-8 as wide receiver Danan Hughes caught three touchdown passes and celebrated one in unique style.
“I remember playing in a game and I was a younger player and we scored a touchdown and the receiver Danan Hughes – who went on to have a great career – actually laid down in the end zone and made a snow angel,” Bielema said.
That would of course be a penalty these days in college football.
“We are not going to do any snow angels regardless of how much it snows,” Bielema said. “That was before the NCAA rules that exist today. My guess is none of my guys are going to want to get down and roll around in it either.”
The Arkansas-LSU game has been played at the end of the season up until this year when Missouri was put at the end for the Razorbacks and Texas A&M became the Tigers' new rivalry game.
“I am big believer in embracing history,” Bielema said. “From former players to fans that have been going to that game, I think there are probably a lot of families that have traditions around that game itself. You hate to see that change, but our SEC Conference and the people that make those decisions have obviously made some really good decisions in the past because the SEC label that we have today is the strongest ever for what we do.
“We get a chance to play LSU every year obviously because of where we are at in our divisions, but the big thing is that we are going to have a chance to build a new tradition,” Bielema added. “For me as a new coach, we have the Missouri game coming at the end of the year on Friday on national TV and hopefully when that game gets here we can build that significance as well.”
Bielema noted he sees a lot of similarities in the offenses of Arkansas and LSU and noted his respect for head coach Les Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and freshman running back Leonard Fournette (736 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns this season.
“You do see a lot of similarities,” Bielema said. “I have a huge amount of respect for Coach Miles and what he has obviously been able to accomplish in his coaching career, not just what he has done at LSU, but also Cam Cameron and watch the offense brings is fun to watch.
“They obviously have a very, very talented backfield,” Bielema added. “I think Fournette was the number one recruit in the nation a year ago for a reason. He is very talented and played in a great high school division and has shown how quickly he can adjust to the SEC.”
“...There is a lot of carryover, but what we do is a little bit different,” Bielema continued. “We've got some formations that are different. If it is really bad, we might put every linemen we can have on the field. We might run formations with eight or nine linemen on the field. That is something that hopefully that will benefit us in the future.”
Bielema hopes this is the weekend that Arkansas breaks the 17-game SEC losing streak it is currently riding.
“We are on a streak here of losses that is unfortunately long, but the opponents that we have faced you understand,” Bielema said. “The part for me that has really been fun is that we are right there knocking on the door and we are going to break through it. I don't know if it is going to be this weekend or the next or the week after or when it is going to be, but I think we have learned a lot through our setbacks.
“I said this at my pressure – I really believe that sometimes your greatest blessings come in a form disguised as a failure,” Bielema added. “I think our guys understand that and when that tide turns, it is going to be a lot of fun.”
Bielema: Still Time To Define Season
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